Attitudes towards immigrants hardening, survey finds

Published on Tuesday, 17 June 2014 14:25
Written by Daniel Mason

Almost a quarter of people in the UK think the main reason immigrants come to Britain is to claim benefits, according to a study published today.

The latest instalment of NatCen Social Research's British Attitudes Survey also revealed that - while more than half of Londoners believe immigration is good for the economy - that figure falls to just over a quarter in the rest of the country.

Meanwhile the annual survey of 3,000 people showed that people consider that speaking the English language and living most of your life in the UK are key to being 'truly British'.

The public is "yet to be convinced that politicians have got a grip on immigration", said NatCen chief executive Penny Young.

"They want tougher rules on benefits and many are unaware of the policies that are in place to control immigration," she added.

Some 61% of people said immigrants from within the EU should have to wait three years or more before they can claim benefits. And although 50% said the main reason most migrants come to Britain is for work, 24% think claiming benefits is their priority.

Just 27% of people believe that immigrants who are not British citizens should have the same legal rights as British citizens, down from 40% a decade ago.

In addition, even as 54% of Londoners say immigration is good for the UK economy, only 28% of people outside the capital agree.

Meanwhile when asked what they see as important in determining whether someone is 'truly British', 95% said knowing the language, 77% said living in the country most of your life, and 74% said having been born in the UK.

More than half, 51%, said having British ancestry was key, while 24% said being a Christian was important to national identity.

Young said: "In an increasingly diverse, multicultural country, we might expect people to be more relaxed about what it means to be British, yet the trend is going in the opposite direction.

"It is now harder to be considered British and one message comes through loud and clear, if you want to be British, you must speak English."

Elsewhere in the study, 62% of those surveyed in Scotland said the country should keep the same King or Queen as England and Wales in the event that it becomes independent, while 82% want to carry on watching the BBC.

Most people in Scotland also said they would want to keep the pound in the event of a yes vote in September's referendum.

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